A’s center fielder Mark Kotsay has never made an All-Star team, he’s never won a Gold Glove and because the process by which those honors are bestowed, there’s a good chance he never will.
And while his balky back will be the determining factor in who wins the American League West, he’ll likely never win national acclaim. Fine, he says. He’ll settle for simply winning you over.
“That’s really what matters,” says Kotsay. “As long as my teammates and the fans who see me play day in and day out appreciate what I do, that’s enough for me.”
Lack of hardware aside, nobody who watches Kotsay at work will dare say he isn’t a stud. He is. In fact, he might be one of the most underrated players in the game.
But All-Star teams are made up of two kinds of players: Those who can pull in the national fan vote by force of popularity, and those who put up such gaudy numbers that they force themselves into the picture. Kotsay has no shot on either front.
He is the opposite of Lindsay Lohan when it comes to seeking attention. And although he’s rock-solid with a bat in his hands, the only gaudy numbers he puts up are in the assist category. Nobody in the game has exposed overzealous baserunners as bad decision makers more often since 1998.
“I’m always a little surprised whenever somebody challenges his arm out there,” says outfield coach Brad Fischer. “You’d think the word would be out by now.”
Which brings us to the Gold Glove.
Kotsay is technically flawless in all aspects of outfield play. He gets great jumps on balls, he takes perfect angles, he covers a ton of ground and he’s every bit the quarterback of the outfield that all great center fielders must be. So complete is he defensively that the A’s coaching staff gives him carte blanche when it comes to positioning himself.
Alas, Macha is but one member the 14 American League coaching staffs who do the Gold Glove voting. And despite Macha’s best efforts, the rest of them remain enamored with Ichiro Suzuki, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells — the AL trio that has won outfield Gold Gloves for the past two seasons. Hunter and Suzuki have each won five in a row, underscoring the difficulty of unseating an incumbent in this vote.
“It’s kind of a popularity contest,” admits Oakland’s Eric Chavez, a five-time Gold Glover himself. “You win it one year, and as long as you make a few highlight plays that get on ‘SportsCenter,’ you’ve got a good shot at winning it again.”
Kotsay makes his share of great plays, but his greatness lies more in his consistency than anything. He’s far more concerned with substance than style.
“If you came out to three or four games a year, you might watch me and think, ‘He’s all right,’” Kotsay concedes. “But I’d like to think that if you’re out here all the time, you say, ‘That guy’s good.’”
Every team should be so lucky to have a Mark Kotsay. He might not win many awards, but he’s already won a ton of people over. And if his back holds out for another month or so, he’ll help the A’s win the West — and their first playoff series since the Bash Brothers era.
Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com.